We all know that Facebook has 800+ million members and that 50% of them use the site on a daily basis. The stats are overwhelming. There can be no question that Facebook is the powerhouse of social media and that people are addicted to it. Just look at how Zynga‘s leveraged Facebook’s phenomenal growth to reach a reported pre-IPO valuation of $10 billion.
So, what does this mean for brands? Mark Zuckerberg said the following at the Web 2.0 Summit late last year:
“I think that over the next 5 years, most industries are going to get rethought to be social and designed around people. This is kind of the evolution we’ve seen at Facebook.”
Anyone paying attention to what’s happened in the world over the past 5 years would have to agree with the Facebook founder. I know I do — I’ve founded twobusinesses in the past 18 months that are both focused exclusively on innovation within the social business web.
The current hype around Facebook for business reminds me of the glory days of AOL back in the 1990s.
Can you remember that far back?
At the peak, every TV ad seemed to have those AOL keywords which are analogous to today’s Facebook fan pages. We all know what happened to that strategy.
Every agency is telling its clients to “fish where the fish are” and the fish are definitely on Facebook. We’ve seen gigantic growth of Facebook fan pages and the top 50 corporate brands on Facebook have a collective 458,033,721 fans who “liked” them! There are very successful startups who are capitalizing on the Facebook fanpage phenomenon … Increasingly I’m hearing people suggest that the corporate website is dead and that all the action is now taking place out on the social networks, with the Facebook platform being the key benefactor.
So, should your brand jump on the Facebook bandwagon? Should you abandon your own website and simply set up a Facebook fan page instead?
Many brands seem to be following this path and on the surface who can argue with that 858 Million number.
What’s Zynga thinking today? It is looking to hedge its bets and create it’s own platform.
I’m suggesting that you do the same thing for your brand too.
Build your own social business platform.
Yes, the social phenomenon is real and it will transform the way business operates. It’s already done that and I’m a strong believer that we are only at the beginning. We will see dramatic innovation within the social business arena over the next few years. So, instead of just relying on Facebook to be your “social voice”, look to build your own social platform that you can control and tailor to your own unique business needs. Why do I say this?
1. Your customer data is the most valuable asset you have
Don’t simply hand that data to Facebook.
2. Your customer conversations are what ultimately drive your brand value
Don’t simply abdicate responsibility or ownership of the conversation to a third-party platform like Facebook. Facebook fan pages are very successful for the global CPG and retail brands like Coke, Starbucks or Red Bull. Facebook fan pages for these brands help spread the buzz and are great promotional tools. Starbucks is starting to add useful functionality to its fan pages (see the image at the top of this blog post) but do you want to build mission-critical social apps on top of Facebook without any real ownership of the traffic or the data? Just look at what Starbucks has done with their My Starbucks Idea site. They are listening, engaging, responding and innovating together with their customers within their own brand platform.
3. Your customers want to use your website to achieve specific tasks
The social dynamic is a fundamental transformative force but we shouldn’t forget that your customers choose your brand to accomplish specific tasks. They’re not going to do that on Facebook. They want to do that on your secure platform.
4. Your customers should not be subject to a 3rd party’s terms of service
What happens when Facebook changes its terms of service? Why should you or your customers take the risk that a 3rd party who can easily change its terms of service without your say and affect your data and your customers’ experience.
Bottom line, social platforms are the way of the future. My advice is to build your own social platform and hold your brand’s destiny in your own hands.